Wrenshall looks to hire school board member as principal

Board chair Michelle Blanchard is slated to serve as interim principal for the 2021-22 school year.

Wrenshall school web.jpg
The Wrenshall School Board has selected current board chairperson Michelle Blanchard for the interim principal position. A vote on the hire is expected in August. (Pine Journal file photo/ Portrait courtesy of Michelle Blanchard)

Administrative restructuring within the Wrenshall school district has brought on the hire of a new full-time principal — effectively eliminating the dean of students position and moving Superintendent Kimberly Belcastro from full time to part time.

According to Belcastro, the hiring of a principal will allow for the current dean of students to move into a full time teaching position while Belcastro focuses more heavily on administrative duties within the district.

Due to the change, Belcastro’s salary is projected to drop from $117,262 per year to $71,764, with the principal set to be paid approximately $80,000 in 2022.

After interviewing three candidates, the Wrenshall School Board has selected current school board chairperson Michelle Blanchard for the interim principal position, with an official vote scheduled for mid-August.


Michelle Blanchard (Photo courtesy of Michelle Blanchard)
Contributed / Michelle Blanchard

The interim status of the position means Blanchard would serve as principal full time, with a review by the board after one year.

"The board hired her as an interim, which will give her the opportunity to try out the position and if the school board is not happy with her work, they can choose to open the position up again," Belcastro said in an email to the Pine Journal.

However, Blanchard told the Pine Journal that she is in it for the long haul and plans to serve as principal well past the initial one-year term.

“She lives and breathes the school,” school board vice chair Jack Eudy said of Blanchard. “I think it's gonna be good."

Blanchard currently works as dean of students at Denfeld High School and is a certified Minnesota principal. She has served on the Wrenshall school board since 2014 and is an alumni and resident of the Wrenshall school district, with children also having graduated from the high school.

"I definitely have that foundation of knowing where we've been," Blanchard said. "It's just a school that I believe in."

The school board was initially scheduled to hold an official vote to approve the resignation of Blanchard as board chair and the hire of her as interim principal on Monday, May 17, but tabled the actions until Aug. 16.


Belcastro explained that this delay was largely due to costs associated with holding a special election to replace Blanchard as board chair. She said that the Minnesota School Boards Association recommended postponing the official hire until direct appointment of a new board chair was possible.

The timeline of Blanchard’s term allows the school board to appoint a new member without holding a public election after the Aug. 16 date. Belcastro speculated that it is likely they will appoint a former board member to fill Blanchard's seat.

Wrenshall School. (File / Pine Journal)

"Our teaching staff is looking forward to working with Mrs. Blanchard to improve our students' learning here at Wrenshall," said Wrenshall teacher Nichole Rowland. "We are excited about the experience that she has working with diverse students and staff, and are very grateful that she will be bringing that to our district."

According to Belcastro, Blanchard was selected for the position out of a pool of eight candidates, five of whom were offered an interview. Belcastro shared that two candidates withdrew their applications at the last minute, resulting in three interviews in total.

District officials involved in the interviews included five members of the school board and four school staff members. The staff members — a paraprofessional, the technology director, an elementary teacher and a high school teacher — gave their input, with the board making the final decision.

Belcastro read the interview questions and facilitated the process.


Eudy and Belcastro both said Blanchard was not involved in the hiring process due to her status as an applicant.

Eudy shared that it was slightly “daunting” for the school board to select the principal hire due to Blanchard’s involvement with the board.

“It was a tough decision,” he said. “You do have to put a lot of your thoughts aside … and look at the facts.”

Belcastro said she was not aware of any concerns from the board regarding conflict of interest with the hiring on Blanchard, although she has heard some opinions from staff members.

"There have been some opinions by staff regarding the hiring of Michelle," she said. "However, this happens often for positions like this."

According to Eudy and Belcastro, there was one school board member not in favor of appointing Blanchard to the position.

Once official, Blanchard says she plans to take immediate action by introducing herself to the community and talking on-on-one with teachers. She says that while this is a unique situation, she thinks it will be good for the district.

This story was updated at 11 a.m. May 20 with additional information from Kimberly Belcastro. It was originally posted at 1 p.m. May 19.


This story originally listed an incorrect number of staff members involved in the hiring process of Michelle Blanchard. It was updated at 11:44 a.m. May 20. There were four staff members involved. The Pine Journal regrets the error.

What To Read Next
Get Local